Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s unprecedented bond buying pushed the Fed’s balance sheet to a record $3 trillion as he shows no sign of softening his effort to bring down 7.8 percent unemployment.
The Fed is purchasing $85 billion of securities every month, using the full force of its balance sheet to stoke the economic recovery. The central bank began $40 billion in monthly purchases of mortgage-backed securities in September and added $45 billion in Treasury securities to that pace this month.
“We’re in uncharted territory,” said Julia Coronado, chief economist for North America at BNP Paribas SA in New York, and a former Fed economist. Even as “the easy money will flow through financial markets and into the real economy at some point and lift us to a better growth trajectory,” the U.S. faces “a lot of risks,” she said.
The Fed’s total assets climbed by $48 billion in the past week to $3.01 trillion as of Jan. 23, according to a release from the central bank yesterday in Washington. The announcement came as the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index closed at the highest level since December 2007.
Fed policy makers have voiced increasing concern that record-low interest rates are overheating markets for assets from farmland to junk bonds, which could heighten risks when they reverse their unprecedented bond purchases.
Read More at bloomberg.com . By Joshua Zumbrun and Jeff Kearns.